Willie and the ghost kitchen


Willie Wingz posing in front of Barrio Food Hub via instagram @willie_wingz

Matthew Martinez, Staff Writer

“Ghost kitchens” are being introduced to the city of San Diego and redefining the experience of owning a restaurant. For William Stewart, a former Mesa College student and now co-owner of Willie Wingz at the Barrio Food Hub, this was the opportunity he needed to set himself up for success for years to come.

In a phone interview with Stewart, he explains his journey to creating Willie Wingz. “While attending Mesa, my major was actually child development. I was working for the YMCA with kids. My whole plan was to come back and give to the community somehow, maybe through sports” he said when asked about his educational background. No plan is set in stone, as was Stewart’s experience at community college.

He transferred from Mesa College and went on to continue his studies at Ottawa University on a football scholarship, but found hardship when the university didn’t offer the major he was interested in pursuing. Unfortunately, he ended up having to leave his university early and move back to San Diego to support his family. Unknowingly, as he closed the door to what his original plans were and moved back home, he found new success. Most importantly, he found that success while working alongside his family.

Stewart rotated through many jobs before the idea of Willie Wingz came about. He started with a Facebook page and his grandmother’s kitchen and recipes. Willie Wingz features Asian Soul cuisine, focusing on key pieces such as fried chicken wings and tenders served as a combo with fried rice.

With a successful sellout on Facebook, the thought setting up the business for real started brewing. “I knew since I posted them and the orders started coming in,” Stewart said. “When my Cash App started hitting, I was like I already knew this was gonna be it. After they taste the food, they’re gonna want to come back again.” He saw potential, and with the support of his grandmother and uncle, Willie Wingz was created.

The opportunity of participating in San Diego’s first “ghost kitchen” was perfect for Stewart. It was similar to his Facebook page offering only pick-up and delivery options, but the Barrio Food Hub allows Stewart to work out of a commercial space and partner with delivery apps like GrubHub and DoorDash, expanding his reach and bringing his business to more than just friends and family on social media.

These kitchens are becoming the new innovative way to purchase five-star meals without having to be in a five-star restaurant. The buildings function strictly as a place to cook — there are no servers, no dining rooms and none of the hustle and bustle of restaurant life. You simply use any food delivery app or pick up at the Hub. It works out for both sides, as customers can obtain and enjoy restaurant-quality food without actually having to be in a restaurant and cooks as well as kitchen owners stay open and continue to keep a financial income.

With the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines that restaurants have had to endure during this past year, cutting off customer dining from their model has facilitated staying in business for many of these food shops. Additionally, the cost of a commercial kitchen space at the Barrio Food Hub is significantly lower than that of an actual store front, allowing these owners to save money and see higher profits.

Since the Barrio Food Hub opened, Willie Wingz and the many other shop owners have found profitable success, good rollout in sales, and have gained popularity throughout the city.

In the upcoming months, we can expect to see another “ghost kitchen” in the area surrounding San Diego State University. The Barrio Food Hub has given Stewart a great platform to start his business and showcase his style of Asian Soul cuisine. As “ghost kitchens” continue to grow and gain popularity, we can only expect the same for Willie Wingz.